Wednesday, September 24, 2014
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Eagles draft watch: Players to keep an eye on in today's college bowl games

The first 11 college bowl games are in the books (we profiled prospects playing in those games here and here). For those of you who like to keep an eye on college prospects, here are some players to watch today if you happen to find yourself taking in some college football.

Eagles draft watch: Players to keep an eye on in today's college bowl games

Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater looks to pass. (AP Photo/Garry Jones)
Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater looks to pass. (AP Photo/Garry Jones)

The first 11 college bowl games are in the books (we profiled prospects playing in those games here and here). For those of you who like to keep an eye on college prospects, here are some players to watch today if you happen to find yourself taking in some college football.

Disclaimer #1: Yes, the Eagles' season is still very much alive and kicking, however, the college bowl games are happening right now. For those of you who prefer to focus on what is going on with the Eagles against Dallas this week, there are a boatload of articles for you fine folks right here.

Disclaimer #2: We're listing all the players worth watching, regardless of the Eagles' current needs, but will add that it's not a position of need where applicable.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers vs Notre Dame

Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame (6'3, 357): Nix won't play in this game, but he's worth talking about. 

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Nix first impressed me in the National Championship Game last year. Alabama ran all over Notre Dame behind their outstanding OL, but it wasn’t Nix’s fault. Alabama either ran away from Nix, or they tried to get him to run himself out of the play. But when Alabama tried to block Nix, they simply couldn’t. Nix defeated blocks all night, and was the only Irish defender who was able to make plays in the run game.

Since taking over as the starter at NT, Bennie Logan has played well, but Logan's value is his versatility. The Eagles can use him as a guy within a rotation who can play multiple spots. Nix would be a rare, big-bodied but agile stud NT that the Eagles could plant in the middle of their DL. Plus, the fact that the Eagles brought in Isaac Sopoaga in free agency last offseason indicates that they would like a massive body in the mix.

The Eagles' DL is already very young and talented. Nix could take it to the next level.

Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame (6'6, 312): Tuitt is an athletic player for his size, and would project as a DE in the Eagles' base 3-4. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly revealed that Tuitt received a 2nd round grade from the NFL advisory committee, which came as a surprise to some.

Tuitt had previously been viewed as a potential first round pick, so Tuitt may opt to go back to Notre Dame for his senior season.

Zack Martin, OG, Notre Dame (6'4, 308): At a minimum, Martin is battle tested. This will be his 52nd start for Notre Dame, which is a school record. Martin played some left tackle at Notre Dame, but will be an OG at the pro level, due to his lack of length.

Chris Watt, OG, Notre Dame (6'3, 321): Like Nix above, Watt won't play in the bowl game. Both Watt and teammate Zack Martin will compete at the Senior Bowl.

Prince Shembo, OLB, Notre Dame (6'1, 258): Shembo had 7.5 sacks in 2012, 5 in 2013. At 6'1, he lacks ideal size, but has high effort, and could be a mid-late round pickup at the right value. You can watch Shembo battle with Lane Johnson here.

T.J. Jones, WR, Notre Dame (6'0, 195): 65 catches, 1042 yards, 9 TD this season. Late-round prospect. He'll compete at the Shrine Game.

Bennett Jackson, CB, Notre Dame (6'0, 195): Another late round prospect.

Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers (6'5, 220): Coleman received a 3rd round grade from the NFL advisory board last year, and opted to return to Rutgers. He dealt with a knee injury all season, and had non-existent production.

On the season, Coleman had 32 catches for 473 yards and 3 TDs. But he's tall.... so I'll bet a lot of Eagles fans will love him on that alone

Belk Bowl: Cincinnati vs North Carolina

Eric Ebron, TE, UNC (6'4, 245): Ebron is a player the Tarheels moved all over the field to try to exploit matchups. He lines up as an in-line TE, split wide, in the slot, etc. He can catch, run, and I really liked what I saw of him as a blocker. He is a tremendous talent.

On the season, Ebron has 55 catches for 895 yards (very impressive 16.3 YPC), and 3 TD. He is 2nd in the nation among TEs in receiving yards, behind only Texas Tech's Jace Amaro. 

Howie Roseman has talked in the past about being elite on one side of the ball.

“When we went back and studied the teams who’ve won, they have a strength,” Roseman said. “They’re not just in the middle on both sides of the ball. And when we looked at our offense and looked at where we had players rated in the draft, we saw that there was an opportunity to really strengthen positions there that we thought could really help us be successful on offense.”

If the Eagles really like Ebron, he could be yet another versatile weapon in the Eagles' offense, creating all kinds of matchup challenges for opposing defenses. However, they'd likely have to get him in the 1st round, because he'll be snatched up quickly. But just imagine adding this guy to the Eagles' already potent offense:

James Hurst, OT, UNC (6'6, 305): I've seen Hurst rated anywhere from a 2nd round to mid-round prospect. Personally, I don't see much to get all that fired up about. I watched his game in the opener against South Carolina. He struggled quit a bit with Jadeveon Clowney, which is understandable, but watch Hurst's lack of athleticism at the 6:20 mark below, with Hurst out in front on a screen play:

Yuck.

Kareem Martin, DE, UNC (6'5, 265): 78 tackles, 11 sacks, 20 tackles for loss, 3 batted passes, 14 hurries. Great season. And he's 6'5, 265? Could he be an edge rusher in a 3-4? Eh, tough to say. UNC used him as a 4-3 DE, and moved him inside on obvious passing downs. 

Martin will compete at the Senior Bowl, and it will be interesting to see if they work him out at 3-4 OLB.

Tre Boston, S, UNC (6'0, 205): Boston started his career at UNC as a CB, and moved to safety after his freshman year. The Eagles could like that versatility. 8 picks the last 2 seasons, currently leads UNC in tackles. Late-round prospect.

Russell Athletic Bowl: Miami vs (18) Louisville

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (6'3, 205): Bridgewater will be long gone by the time the Eagles pick, and the focus of this game will be centered around him.

DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville (6'2, 209): On the season, Parker has 46 catches for 743 yards and 11 TD. He said that he will be returning to Louisville for his senior season if he doesn't receive a 1st round grade from the NFL. In other words, Parker will be returning for his senior season.

Hakeem Smith, S, Louisville (6'1, 180): At 6'1, 180, Smith has an extraordinarily low body mass index. He'll have to bulk up a bit in the pros. Late round prospect. 4 year starter, lots of tackles, only 4 career picks.

Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami (6'7, 345): In 2010, Henderson was the #2 high school prospect in the country, according to Rivals.com. The Eagles have a recent history of drafting, signing, and trading for players who were formerly elite high school prospects.

Henderson is a monster at 6'7, 345 pounds. The Eagles showed interest in behemoths at OT when they won a bidding war for 6'8, 338 pound undrafted free agent Michael Bamiro by guaranteeing him almost $250K.

However, his career at Miami has been marred by suspensions and other character concerns. Still, Henderson remains a legitimate pro prospect who may be available at a bargain if teams are scared off by his history.

The Eagles' offensive line is aging, and they are going to have to reload along the line sooner than later. Next year, Evan Mathis will be 33, while Jason Peters and Todd Herremans will both be 32. The Eagles don't have much OL depth, so they'll need to start bringing in talent to replace the players in place before it's too late.

Henderson would be a high upside guy the Eagles could decide not to rush into action.

Denzel Perryman, LB, Miami (6'0, 240): Perryman had over 100 tackles this season, but wasn't so impressive that his production will overshadow his lack of ideal size. Perryman is only a junior, and will probably be best served to stay at Miami for one more year.

Brandon Linder, OG, Miami (6'6, 319): Linder is a tall guard at 6'6, who could have some versatility to play tackle. Eagles OL coach Jeff Stoutland recruited Linder (and Henderson above, for that matter) when he was at Miami.

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